Smoke on the water: Hume Weir fire

ROADS were closed and residents warned after a fire at the Hume Weir power switching yard sent large plumes of black smoke into the air yesterday afternoon.

Fire and Rescue NSW Superintedent Philip Lindsay said firefighters were called to the site just before 3pm but had to wait two hours before they could safely tackle the high-voltage transformer blaze.

“Before they could extinguish the fire they had to get the power isolated to the transformer,” Supt Lindsay said.

TransGrid — the owner, operator and manager of the high-voltage electricity transmission system in NSW — was able to confirm at 5pm that the transformer had been isolated.

It was only then that firefighters could pour water and foam onto the fire, the cause of which is not yet known.

“It’s a very high voltage switchyard and the risk there of electrocution was very real and we had to make sure that was safe before they could start,” Supt Lindsay said.

The delay in being able to start fighting the fire was borne out by what was seen by Lavington resident and amateur photographer V.J. Paris.

Ms Paris was at the weir taking some shots when she caught sight of the flames.

Click play to watch video by Matt Dallinger of the smoke pouring out.

“It was just one spot burning and it seemed the firemen had difficulty getting access to it,” she said.

“We saw firemen walking around it trying to see the best way to tackle it.”

Ms Paris ended up leaving within half an hour, not wanting to stay in case she was in any danger.

“Lots of people were there,” she said.

“One guy in his canoe had a closer look at it.”

Supt Lindsay said there were no other structures or assets — such as the weir wall — that were in any way put at threat.

“It’s just a transformer within a switch yard and totally confined to that area,” he said.

“There was no danger to the public.

“The only warning they put out was to do with the large amounts of smoke coming from the transformer, and if it was blowing towards Lake Hume Village then residents needed to close windows and stay inside.”

Supt Lindsay said roadblocks set up by police on nearby roads were purely a precautionary step to keep onlookers away “and prevent anyone coming near the site”.

The fire was extinguished early this morning.

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